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Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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What to read?
Old 12-09-2012   #1
konicaman
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What to read?

I am looking for suggestions on what to read - main subjects here being philosophy and/or history/biography/working methods of the masters.

So far I have read:

Susan Sontag. Didn´t understand half of it; the other half I had one heck of a time relating to photography. It made me wonder if Susan ever pressed the shutter button on a camera. This may of course be due to my limited intellectual capabilities...

The ongoing moment. I understood that (at least in my imagination), but apart from giving some sleazy and rather interesting biographical details on the photographers, it gave me the impression that photography is something that only takes place in the US - and that American photographers only shoot: Benches, blind people, abandoned stores, and fences

OK - I am not trying to be provocative here - or start a discussion for that matter. Every person is entitled to his/her opinion. Just asking for suggestions suited for my limited intellect and rather pragmatic approach to things.
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Old 12-09-2012   #2
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Cooper & Hill's "Dialogue with Photography"
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Old 12-09-2012   #3
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Four books I have found most enjoyable in this vein:

On Being A Photographer by David Hurn and Bill Jay (available from Lenswork.com)

Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland (available from Amazon.com)

Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees by Lawrence Weschler (available from Amazon.com)

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (available from Amazon.com)

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Old 12-09-2012   #4
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I second the Art of Fear, a book that I keep going back to
and I also recommend The Tao of Photography by Philippe L. Gross and S. I. Shapiro
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Old 12-09-2012   #5
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The Nature of Photographs - Stephen Shore
Possibly the best primer on the photographic image published today.

Why People Photograph - Robert Adams
Brilliant essays from one of the most important landscape photographers alive.
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Old 12-09-2012   #6
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Anything by David Vestal. His magazine articles, his two books...chock full of things that make one think about what one is doing with a camera.
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Old 12-09-2012   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Biggles View Post
Anything by David Vestal. His magazine articles, his two books...chock full of things that make one think about what one is doing with a camera.
Second David Vestal... I still have my copy of "The Craft of Photography" given to me for my birthday in 1975 . Great book.
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Old 12-09-2012   #8
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Interesting. Will start looking into these. Keep ´em coming!
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Old 12-09-2012   #9
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The Photographers Eye by John Szarkowski
http://www.amazon.com/The-Photograph...=zg_bs_2027_13
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Old 12-09-2012   #10
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The latest one I've enjoyed a lot is Bill Wright's "People's Lives"

Beautiful B&W portraits of interesting subjects and stories.
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Old 12-09-2012   #11
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Moby Dick is philosophy, history, autobiography and it explains the working methods of some master harpooners. I know you meant photography but I just finished it and it's probably the best book I've ever read, and it offers great insight.
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Old 12-09-2012   #12
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Check out Walter Benjamin and Alan Trachtenberg.
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Old 12-09-2012   #13
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i enjoyed the daybooks of edward weston...
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Old 12-09-2012   #14
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The problem with a lot of the books about photography out there, especially the philosophical/criticism books, is that the authors are often people who know very little about and have little appreciation for...photography. Songtag and Dyer are both examples of that.

I can recommend anything by A.D. Coleman. I do not always agree with his ideas, but he truly loves photography and has a deep understanding of its history, technology, and aesthetics.

David Vestal is another one, and he is a working photographer, too. His column in Photo Techniques is the only thing worth reading in that magazine anymore, and is alone worth the price of the mag.

For a good introduction to photography's history, Beaumont Newhall's History of Photography is a good one. It suffers from the same problem all art history books have: the author projects his biases onto history. In Newhall's case, he champions modernism and dislikes pictorialism. As I said, all art historians have biases they work into their writing, and I think as a general introduction, Newhall's book is the best, as he wrote it for anyone to understand. Unlike some art history and criticism, you do not need a PhD in art history to understand what he's saying.
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Old 12-09-2012   #15
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I think it might be useful to read these:

Robert Adams - Beauty in Photography
Gross and Shapiro - The Tao of Photography
Herrigel - Zen in the Art of Archery

But the most important thing to read, is this little essay by Bill Jay on pages 31-39 of this issue of Lenswork:
http://www.lenswork.com/lw31e.pdf as kindly suggested by johnwolf on this forum.
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Old 12-09-2012   #16
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Try "The art of racing in the Rain" (Garth Stein). It's not a photography book. It's a book about dedication and loyalty to craft and heart. I highly recommend it. (a novel that takes only a couple evenings to read as well).
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Old 12-10-2012   #17
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Wow, my wish list is expanding rapidly! Thanks for all the input!
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Old 12-10-2012   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by back alley View Post
i enjoyed the daybooks of edward weston...

I second that!
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Old 12-10-2012   #19
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Interesting suggestions.

Love the "Tao of Photography." If you like that, you might also like "The practice of contemplative photography: seeing the world with fresh eyes" by Karr and Wood. It's a book I go back to again and again, and learn something new from it each time.
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Old 12-10-2012   #20
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I thought On Photography brought up some interesting question and a lot of ethical issues but I disagree with her summation. I mean yeah we do keep needing a bigger bang or shock but I think the art form is bigger than that and the book which actually was a series of essays written in the 1970s is a bit dated reading it now. I do think Annie Leibowitz's strongest work was her images of Susan Sontag fighting terminal cancer.

Agree about the Weston Daybooks and Adams autobiography is worth a read to.

My favorite books the feature photography are of course

Robert Franks "The Americans"
Bruce Davidsons "East 100th St" "Brooklyn Gang" and "Subway"

Adams "Yosemite and the Range of Light"

Joel Meyerowitz "Cape Light"

Bressons "Mexican Notebook"

Roy DeCaravas "A Retospective"

Ralph Gibsons "Infanta"

Imogen Cunningham "Flora"

I gotta stop sorry...
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Old 12-10-2012   #21
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an interesting and ironic fact about Sontag is that she was Annie Leibovitz's lover and eventually withdrew a lot of her beliefs around photographs "taking something from someone" and saw Annie's side of things in the realm of photography.

Onto the topics "Crisis of the Real" is a photography book I read frequently and it really grounds me photographically and brings me back to the reason why I shoot. It's all essays, so it's not exhausting and you can pick it up and put it down without missing a beat.
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Old 12-10-2012   #22
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Old 12-10-2012   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jordanstarr View Post
an interesting and ironic fact about Sontag is that she was Annie Leibovitz's lover and eventually withdrew a lot of her beliefs around photographs "taking something from someone" and saw Annie's side of things in the realm of photography.

Onto the topics "Crisis of the Real" is a photography book I read frequently and it really grounds me photographically and brings me back to the reason why I shoot. It's all essays, so it's not exhausting and you can pick it up and put it down without missing a beat.
I haven't read it. I'll have to pick it up. Thanks for the recommendation.
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Old 12-10-2012   #24
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I really appreciate these recommendations, but it would be nice to know why these books are good, and maybe in short what they are all about. If I need to google every title, then I might as well just google "inspring photobooks" to start with. I do appreciate the comments which say, if you like this then you will like this, because they hint at what to read NEXT.

I will add Barthes' "Camera Lucida", not always easy to digest (at least in English), but some of his points touch the essence of what photographs provoke in us, and which elements of photographs touch us I found interesting. It is very un-technical and more about (his personal) feelings when seeing photographs. He takes his (late) mother as a main example, and describes why photographs of her provoke such strong feelings in him. I just touched on this book in another thread, where I also noted how the book describes that photographs are about death or something that once was but no more. It made me understand better what photographs differentiate form other arts like painting.
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Old 12-10-2012   #25
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For once my GAS has subsided - but has been replaced by BAS...
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